Secret to Success

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. – Colin Powell

At this time of year, many college and high school-age students are participating in summer internships, hoping to get the right experience they need in order to graduate and ultimately find an amazing job. Each summer, Southwest Michigan First hosts several interns – this year we have six! We definitely put them to work, but we also pair each of them with a leader on our team who can mentor them along the way – which may be even more important than the work experience they get by the end of the summer.

SMF Interns 2015_2

With students in this season of life, I always share the same piece of advice. In fact, we recently had an intern leave us to go back to college for an advanced degree. On her last day, we had a little celebration lunch in her honor, as is our tradition, and each team member offered her their own piece of advice or secret to success. But, like I said, mine is always the same: Debt is your enemy.

Debt will force you to make decisions in your youth that will impact and limit your future in ways that you could never predict. I acknowledge that it is hard to graduate from college these days without significant debt, but do everything you can to minimize it. If you do accumulate debt, do everything you can to live simply and pay it off as soon as possible.

Debt will force you to take a job that just pays the bills, even if it isn’t what you love. Debt will limit your ability to have the impact that you were put in this world to have. In the end, it won’t feed your soul. In the end, it won’t allow you to live in your talents and strengths.

I applaud our interns, and all of the interns out there, who are working hard this summer to earn some money and gain the experience needed to be successful upon graduation. It isn’t easy to get up early each day of the week and drive to the office while your friends are sleeping in or going to the beach. But, I believe we were all created to achieve a measure of impact and influence; and it is so much easier to achieve that measure if you put in the hard work on the front end.

Always Forward.

Note: Southwest Michigan First just launched our first-ever regional internship website:, where employers in Southwest Michigan can post available internships and students looking for experience can apply! We know similar resources like this exist, but none that specifically target our entire region. As an organization, we are doing what we can to help match young talent with businesses who need a few extra hands. We see it as a win-win! If you are an employer with an internship program, I invite you to share those internships for free at

Summer Reads

Coffee cup and book on the table in the morning

He that loves reading has everything within his reach. – William Godwin Every so often, I like to share with you books that I have recently read that have helped me on my leadership journey, either in business or my personal life. It’s officially … [Continue reading]

David Ogilvy On…Everything


The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them. - Don Draper I’ve recently read several of David Ogilvy’s works and am fascinated by his somewhat unexpected thought leadership. As you may know, David Ogilvy was a world famous … [Continue reading]